About Post-War Information Policy: Between Fraud And Mistrust

On May 12, as is “accepted” in the case of our government, Telegram pages and various websites were the first to write about border tensions or a new provocation by Azerbaijan, spiced with some false information. Rumors spread that there were battles near the peak of Mets Ishkhanasar in Syunik. The Ministry of Defense later denied that information, that is, denied the rumors about the fighting, then confirmed that the Azerbaijani armed forces had invaded the territory of Armenia.

The CivilNet team decided to send me on a business trip to Syunik. As there was information at that time that the village of the same name near Mets Ishkhanasar was tense, I was the first to go to that village and talk to people who, apart from the military on the day of the incident, were closest to Ishkhanasar that day, their fields and pastures. People said that there was no tension in the village, nor did they hear gunshots or explosions in the fields. I wrote about it and was targeted by some groups.

The main accusation was that I went not to Mets Ishkhanasar, but to Ishkhanasar village. I chose the point closest to the potentially tense place. Mets Ishkhanasar, of course, I could not climb, for two simple reasons: first, the peak is divided between the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and second, it required special mountaineering skills, it was not possible for me to climb on my own, especially since the armed forces were moving in those areas.  Later, however, it turned out that the problem was related to Lake Sev, located on the south-eastern slope of Mount Ishkhanasar.

At the end of this story, CivilNet even had to give an explanation in order to make the situation more understandable to the reader. The saddest thing was that CivilNet, which did not allow any shortcomings, started to justify itself. I am in favor of that, because it is necessary to speak clearly to the reader, and the media outlets that claimed that there was fighting in that area, wounded, as well as other media outlets that referred to them, did not apologize to their audience for sharing false information. They did not speak to the reader in any way.

After the war, society began to distrust the official sources and was filled with pessimism, which is natural. As a result of all this, society is also skeptical of the media, which tries to give reliable information in the information chaos everywhere. A ridiculous situation: if I had stayed in Yerevan on May 12 and, citing my own sources, written that the explosions near Mets Ishkhanasar were heard in the village of Ishkhanasar, they would not have targeted me as much as the news after visiting the village of Ishkhanasar.

All this, in my opinion, is a result of the government’s wrong information policy. The Azerbaijani armed forces have been in Armenia for more than a month now. Recently, perhaps due to the pre-election campaign, the General Staff organized journalistic visits to the front line. Moreover, the journalists were not taken to the points of advancement of the Azerbaijani armed forces, but to those with more favorable conditions.

What is not done? To this day, I do not understand why the government does not move journalists to positions violated by Azerbaijan on the territory of Armenia, why it does not present the facts of violation of Armenia’s sovereignty by Azerbaijan through weekly maps.

On May 26, we visited the village of Verin Shorzha, in the Gegharkunik region. The visit was not planned and coordinated with the Ministry of Defense. Through the efforts of the head of the community, we reached a village, which is still closed to journalists. In the village, the military immediately approached us and banned us from filming, the reason was fair, it is the front line, a number of armed operations are taking place and they should not appear in the shots. The mayor of Verin Shorzha also had his argument, saying that information is constantly spread that there is panic in the community, people are fleeing and it is necessary to calm them down. Eventually, we shot him, but in such a way that no military equipment or military base could be seen.

We face this situation almost everywhere, because there is no centralized information policy, the community leaders are starting to solve the problem of information vacuum on their own.

Thus, the following proposal is aimed at reforming the information policy of state agencies.

  • Regularly organize visits to places where the Azerbaijani armed forces violated the Armenian border, of course, ensuring the safety of journalists.
  • Present the situation with maps,
  • Conduct a centralized information policy.

Gevorg Tosunyan

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